Staffordshire Bull Terriers in Finland
Keith Lovell reporting from Down Under.
After a week holidaying in Thailand breaking the long trip from Australia, the space, air quality and minimal crowding at Helsinki Airport was a stunning contrast. I was delighted to be met by Paula Heikenan-Lekkonen and driven to Laahti. Laahti is indeed a beautiful rural town of enough size to keep a visitor like me very happily occupied. The stunning feature to me was the massive ski jump. We have little snow in Australia and I have never seen a ski jump before.
It is always exciting to be mixing with such an eclectic group of judges from so many backgrounds and languages. I feel so inadequate when I hear people speaking more than one language let alone several. There is always so much to learn from people like Paula who is one of the most respected judges to have come to Australia. Others who were so friendly and helpful included Hans Lhetinan, Harry Lekkonen, Mareth Kipp (USA), Pirio Helm (The Big Lady of my own breed –Airedales) and in fact everyone who I met and had time to discuss dogs with. It was a great group of Dog Judges and dog people.
I have been asked to write about the Staffordshire Bull Terriers which I judged. I have given individual critiques and so individual comment is not necessary. Interesting that the judge doesn’t end up with a copy of his (her) comments for further reference. I would love to read my critiques later when I have the catalogue and breeding in front of me.
I was overall impressed by the best you showed me and somewhat surprised at a few actually being shown. Congratulations however to those people who support the breed by showing even when they must expect minimal success. It was an interesting mix of “type” with some quite excessive in size and bulk with the corresponding coarseness while others were very typical and what I would expect to judge in good classes in Australia and indeed England.
There was an equally diverse ability in handling and fortunately for the judge the best dogs were well handled and presented. This is a breed that has had some bad press which in the most part is undeserved. They have such a love for the families they live with, are great with kids and generally safe to greet whether in their own home or at a show. However it is essential for them to be well controlled as they will get the worst of any story of misbehaviour and I say this because I noted a couple of dogs which seemed too strong for their handlers. Although all went well and there was no undue behaviour I felt I needed to assist in ensuring this through my ring management.
I judged Staffordshire Bull Terriers in Melbourne a while back and enjoyed placing a beautiful dog group second. I am so impressed by the breed here having a possible best dog in each of the adult classes and a couple of bitches too which were so good I had tough decisions for best of breed even though the dog went so far on the day. It is difficult when not seeing the dogs side by side but I do not recollect being so excited about the breed in Finland as I was on that Saturday in Melbourne. One possible reason for this is that the show in Melbourne was judged on grass in the sun (although it was so cold and windy) and the dogs were able to move so freely. Having compared Staffs in a number of countries I am pretty confident in saying that in Australia we stack up well with the best in the world. While you had a few of comparable quality the bulk in Australia are well ahead of the majority that I judged for your exhibiters. This is interesting to me because I think in many breeds you are so far ahead of the world in Finland. Even your Australian Terriers in numbers and depth of quality are superior by far to what we get in Australia. This provides you a challenge (if some of you agree with me) and that makes for interesting breeding programs and lots of lovely dog shows.
When I judge Staffs I am looking for a powerful balanced dog which has great strength without being course. I want it to move very freely with reach and drive. A typical short deep and broad skull with strong cheek muscles short foreface and correct rose ears is essential. The correct front is significant in defining type as is the tail carriage. (I have been known to be forgiving on a really good one when a dog is excited) I particularly like to look down on the dog from above and see the shape of broad front, strong neck, well sprung ribs, waist and powerful hind. This with a level top line (particularly when moving) provides me the basics. After that the many other points of the standard provide the key to placings among the best of them.
I am hoping to attach a photo of the dog I made group two last week and if not in time for this issue of the magazine it will follow for a later occasion.
It was a thrill to return to Finland to judge. This was my fourth visit. It was especially pleasing to get a good entry of Staffs as I have an affection for the breed. Sometimes it is of mixed emotion however as an Airedale and Welsh Terrier exhibiter in the group I am often beaten in group by a Staffy. I wish you all the very best of success with your breeding programs and good luck in the show ring.
(If anybody would send me copies of my critiques on your dogs (and other judges critiques on the same dogs) it will assist me in my development as a judge of your breed- many thank in anticipation.)